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Dizziness and Vertigo

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Overview

Dizziness and vertigo are sometimes used interchangeably but are very different conditions.  Dizziness is a broad term that could mean vertigo, but could also be described as lightheadedness, faint, weakness and or woozy. Dizziness can be caused by fatigue, an issue with the inner ear like an infection, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, side-effects of some medications and many other causes.

Much less often, people may feel a sensation that they or their surroundings are spinning — a condition known as vertigo. Vertigo symptoms may be caused by lesions — damaged areas — in the complex pathways that coordinate visual, spatial and other input to the brain needed to produce and maintain equilibrium.

Vertigo symptoms include:

  • Balance problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Motion sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Spinning sensations

The first step to treatment is having a healthcare provider determine the cause of the symptoms and discuss the best course of treatment. A sudden onset of vertigo may also indicate an MS attack or exacerbation, so it is important to consult your healthcare team to determine if a short course of corticosteroids is needed to treat the condition. There are many treatments for these conditions, but an accurate diagnosis is vital to making sure the medical problem is treated effectively.

Additional resources

Managing MS Symptoms: Dizziness

Learn strategies for managing dizziness.  Featuring Stephen Krieger, MD. 

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